Herrera Beutler criticizes habitat plan to protect spotted owls

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, recently sent a letter to the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in opposition to the service’s proposal to designate more forestland as critical habitat for northern spotted owls.

Herrera Beutler told the director, Dan Ashe, that the two-decade-old law protecting spotted owls isn’t working, and that it has hurt the state’s economy. She also said doubling the habitat boundaries for spotted owls will cause wildfires.

“We have 22 years of results to show that the current plan is unworkable,” she writes. “Rather than double down on this approach, it is time to develop a plan that is science-based and takes all our wildlife and our communities into account.”

There are critics of Herrera Beutler’s stance on the issue. In a recent opinion piece published by The Scientist, Dominick DellaSala, of the North American Section of the Society for Conservation Biology, calls into question politicians who demand fast results in the effort to save spotted owls. He says “scientific integrity” is more important than “political expediency” and disputes politicians who say the old growth lands preserved for spotted owls are more likely to cause forest fires.

He also said preserving more old growth forest for spotted owls is crucial to helping them compete with invasive barred owls.

“It appears decisions on spotted owls will be dominated by political maneuverings and election-year politics cloaked as ‘new recovery’ and ‘ecoforestry,'” DellaSala writes. “There remain legitimate disagreements in scientific circles on owl management, but the spotted owl was initially listed because of rampant logging of old forests; thus the precautionary principle should apply: look before you log.”

A representative from the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office pointed out in another editorial in The Scientist that DellaSala might be over simplifying the issue. That opinion piece is also worth a read.

Supporters of the new spotted owl plan say policy makers shouldn’t give up on the spotted owl and that protecting spotted owl habitat has increased the diversity of other plant and animal species.

It’s an issue more relevant to forestland-rich Skamania and Cowlitz counties rather than Clark County. In May, the congresswoman was in Longview, Wash., to listen to forest industry supporters who opposed the fish and wildlife proposal, according to The Daily News.

At that meeting, she said: “We want to restore what has been lost, but we do so in a way that respects wildlife and the endangered American wage earner.”

If you would like to read the entire letter sent to Ashe by Herrera Beutler, click here.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or stevie.mathieu@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reportermathieu or www.twitter.com/col_politics

Scroll to top